Photos by: Lis Key, International Animal Rescue
An orangutan who was wrongly being kept as a ‘pet’ in Senduruhan Village, Hulu Sungai District, Ketapang, West Borneo, was recently rescued by the Wildlife Rescue Unit (WRU) of the Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) in West Kalimantan, along with a team from International Animal Rescue (IAR) Indonesia.
The orangutan, named Kukur, was being kept in a hut in the middle of the woods, living with a family and their dogs, pigs, and chickens. The orangutan’s ‘owner’ claimed to have found Kukur in the forest while he was farming. He said he felt sorry for the orangutan and brought him home, where he was tied up with a rope around his neck and fed rice, instant noodles, coffee, and fruit.
The IAR Indonesia medical team who took part in the rescue found old wounds on Kukur’s neck and ankles. The vet estimated the orangutan to be about five years old.
The team transported Kukur to the IAR Indonesia center in the village of Sungai Awan in Ketapang District. The center has all the facilities required for the care and rehabilitation of orangutans. Kukur will spend eight weeks in quarantine, during which time he will also undergo further medical examinations to ensure that he is not harboring any diseases that could be transmitted to other orangutans at the facility.
In the past eight months, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the BKSDA Kalbar, together with IAR Indonesia, have saved seven orangutans. The economic impact of the pandemic on the local community has been significant and this has brought a renewed threat to nature.
“We have seen an increase in illegal activities in the forest,” Karmele L Sanchez, Programme Director of IAR Indonesia said in an email sent to WAN. “In a couple of areas, people have been hit very hard and have been forced to take up activities that threaten natural habitat and wildlife.”
The general consensus of the scientific community is that one of the factors that can cause a pandemic is the pressure of human beings on the natural world. Per the Indonesian Ministry of Health website, it is claimed that 60% of human diseases are known to originate from animals, and 75% of diseases attacking humans in the last three decades are derived from animals. Factors leading to an increase in the risk of zoonoses include the disruption of the balance of nature, changes in the status of land, an unhealthy relationship between humans and wild animals, particularly the wildlife trade, as well as the disruption of wildlife habitats.
“The more we disrupt nature, the higher the risk of disease transmission from animals to humans, as well as the emergence of a pandemic such as the one we are currently experiencing,” continued Sanchez. “The risk of zoonotic diseases is not to be taken lightly. As we know, the COVID-19 virus has come from animals. If human beings continue to have contact with wild animals, we face the threat of more zoonotic diseases and pandemics in the future.”
As noted by Sanchez, “One way to avoid future pandemics is to maintain the balance of natural ecosystems by not trading in wildlife or keeping wild animals in captivity. Hunting in any case is unsustainable and could lead to the total extinction of species in the wild. This problem is now of even greater importance because it is no longer just an issue of species conservation or animal welfare, but an issue of global human health.”
As part of IAR Indonesia’s ongoing efforts to reduce cases of wildlife being kept in captivity, as well as to raise awareness of the need to protect animals in the wild to prevent the spread of zoonoses, IAR Indonesia fielded an education team in a number of areas, including the District of Hulu River.
“I am delighted that BKSDA and IAR Indonesia have stepped in to save Kukur – for the sake of his welfare, the welfare of the villagers who had him living in their midst at great risk to their health, and for the sake of the Bornean orangutan species as a whole, which is so critically endangered that the survival of every individual counts,” shared Alan Knight OBE, IAR’s Chief Executive. “Now Kukur will undergo rehabilitation at the conservation center in Ketapang and eventually return to his rightful home in the forest.”